GLENS FALLS — The promotion is that every time the Adirondack Thunder score four goals in a game, fans can bring their tickets to The Garrison in Lake George and get free chicken wings within 24 hours.
Free wings are nice, but all the shots Adirondack blocked Friday night made coach Alex Loh even happier, as the Thunder turned back North Division-leading Newfoundland 4-1 at Cool Insuring Arena.
“I think one leads to the other,” Loh said of the blocked shots and goals. “The guys did a great job of getting in front of shots, and it leads to winning hockey.”
The 2-0 start that Adirondack got off to in the first period didn’t hurt, either. The Thunder struck 2:10 into the game when Mike Szmatula backhanded a pass from behind the goal to Conor Riley on top of the crease. Riley poked it in for the quick lead.
Adirondack added a power-play goal at 16:32, as James Henry took a pass low to Growlers goalie Eamon McAdam’s left. He spun back and then in front of McAdam and slid it by.
Newfoundland cut it to 2-1 on Josh Kestner’s hard wrister at 3:16 of the second period, but that was the only one the Growlers could get by the 22-year-old Logan Thompson, who earned his second win in six games since joining the team. For most of the night, Adirondack’s defense kept the Growlers far away. And when it didn’t, the 6-foot-3 Thompson was ready. He finished with 30 saves.
“I don’t think there were too many grade-A opportunities in front of our net, so we have to continue that tomorrow, but we played well tonight. It’s nice to see,” Loh said.
The main reason for that was the play of defenseman Michael Sdao, who returned to the lineup after missing 16 games with an upper-body injury.
Sdao blocked shot after shot throughout the night.
“(Brian Ward) actually said on the bench, ‘I think we blocked 50 shots tonight,’ and I don’t think it’s a surprise that you get number 4 back in the lineup and he leads the way on the back line in that regard, for sure,” Peter MacArthur said. “It’s just a commitment to winning; little things that help you get big points this time of year.”
MacArthur did his part by giving back the Thunder’s two-goal lead when he wristed in a low shot at 13:38 of the second to make it 3-1.
“Against a team like that you have to score,” MacArthur said. “They’re so skilled and they never lose confidence. You could see that, still making fancy plays at the end of the game. It always feels good to help the team from the production side of things.”
Ward put the icing on the cake with a rebound goal at 12:01 of the third.
The starting forward line of Henry, MacArthur and Ward — the captain and two alternate captains — accounted for three goals and two assists. That unspoken connection and having the veteran defenseman Sdao back meant a lot Friday.
“It’s just a different feel,” MacArthur said. “You’re just a little bit more comfortable. Not that the guys we had in the lineup weren’t doing a good job, it’s just different positioning, attitude, set of confidence. You kinda play with your eyes closed. It’s like a security blanket back there.”
“There’s a lot of guys that have been there, done that,” added Ward, the Thunder franchise’s all-time leading goal scorer. “A lot of the new guys, it’s a grind. You can teach the younger guys a lot about what type of hockey it takes to win this time of year.”
The win stopped a four-game losing streak and improved the Thunder’s point total to 72, three ahead of third-place Maine, with 10 regular-season games left. The fourth- through sixth-place teams, however, have 68, 67 and 66 points.